/ Modified jul 22, 2015 4:07 p.m.

ACLU Challenges Law Enforcement's Seizure, Sale of Private Property

Attorneys for ACLU say Arizona's law unfairly incentivizes law enforcement

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The American Civil Liberties Union has filed suit to block Arizona's civil asset forfeiture law. In Arizona, law enforcement officials can seize and sell private property they suspect has been used in criminal activity.

A lot of states have similar laws on the books, as does the federal government. But what makes Arizona’s law special is that law enforcement officials get to keep the proceeds of the property after it’s sold, said attorney J Cabou.

"And that creates an incredibly unfair incentive for the people who are involved in law enforcement to benefit financially from their law enforcement activity," he said.

Cabou’s law firm, Perkins Coie joined with the state and national chapters of the ACLU to file suit against the Pinal County Sheriff and county attorney.

Cabou said what makes the Arizona law particularly unfair is that residents with seized goods are often discouraged from challenging law enforcement.

The plaintiff in Cabou's case, Rhonda Cox, had previously filed to challenge Pinal County’s seizure of her truck. She dropped that case though when she was told that if she lost, she’d be responsible for paying the county’s legal fees.

"So she gave up," said Cabou. "And that's kind of one way attorney’s fees provision is unique to Arizona and it’s particularly outrageous."

The ACLU filed the challenge to the law in the U.S. District Court in Phoenix.

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